Future Priorities for Development Informatics Research from the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Richard Heeks


At the end of 2015, the Millennium Development Goals will be replaced by the post-2015 development agenda (PTDA).  The foundational content is in place for this new agenda, which will be the single most-important force shaping the future of international development.  In planning our priorities for development informatics research – the academic study of ICT4D policy and practice – we should therefore pay close attention to the PTDA.

This paper undertakes a comparative analysis of the post-2015 development agenda versus the current content of development informatics (DI) research.  From this analysis, it identifies a set of post-2015 priorities in international development which have to date been under-emphasised within development informatics.  In all, 16 development informatics research gaps for a post-2015 world are identified.  The research agenda for each gap is described alongside the more general need for DI research to break out of the “ICT4D bubble” and engage more with the development mainstream.

Those gaps, plus other key topics, are used to create a map of post-2015 development informatics research priorities; a map which will be of significant value to academic and other researchers planning their future DI activities.  The paper ends by contemplating what the key narrative will be for the coming “fifth wave” of development informatics research: sustainable informatics, inclusive informatics, or Development 2.0.

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Educators’ duide

Synopsis questions

  1. Why use analysis of the post-2015 development agenda to shape development informatics research priorities?  [Section A]
  2. How was the comparison undertaken between development informatics research and the post-2015 development agenda?  [Section B]
  3. What development topics are already fairly well-covered in current development informatics research?  [Section C]
  4. What development topics are under-represented in current development informatics research?  [Section C]
  5. What are the five waves of development informatics research?  [Section D]

Development questions

  1. Is it too early to use the post-2015 agenda as a basis for setting development informatics research priorities?
  2. Aside from the post-2015 process, what other forces and sources will be important in setting the future research agenda for development informatics?
  3. If you approached this topic from the direction of informatics, rather than development, what would the picture of priorities look like?
  4. What could be done to make Development 2.0 the dominant narrative for development informatics research?
  5. Are there important research topics within development informatics which are not identified by this analysis?
  6. Imagine you are part of a small group of development informatics researchers.  How could you use the contents of this paper to help set future priorities?